Three talented scribes have earned the 2021 Whiting Award for Drama. Jordan E. Cooper, Donnetta Lavinia Grays and Sylvia Khoury will each receive a $50,000 prize.
Cooper wrote and starred in Ain’t No Mo’, which had a twice-extended run at the Public Theater in 2019. He created a pandemic centered-short film called Mama Got a Cough, starring Danielle Brooks and Da’Vine Joy Randolph. He will also be featured as Tyrone in the forthcoming final season of FX’s Pose and is currently filming The Ms. Pat Show, an R-rated “old school” sitcom he created for BET+, which will debut later this year.
Grays also wrote and starred in her most recent New York Stage work, Where We Stand, which played at the WP Theater in 2020. Her plays also include Warriors Don’t Cry, Last Night and the Night Before, Laid to Rest, The Review or How to Eat Your Opposition, The New Normal and The Cowboy is Dying. She is the recipient of the Helen Merrill Playwright Award, National Theater Conference Barrie and Bernice Stavis Playwright Award, Lilly Award, and Todd McNerney National Playwriting Award. She is also the inaugural recipient of the Doric Wilson Independent Playwright Award.
Khoury’s Power Strip was her most recent work seen off-Broadway at Lincoln Center Theater’s Claire Tow Theater. Her additional plays include Selling Kabul, Against the Hillside and The Place Women Go. Her plays have been developed at Playwrights Horizons, Williamstown Theater Festival, Eugene O’Neill Playwrights’ Conference, Roundabout Theater Underground, Lark Playwrights’ Week, EST/Youngblood and WP Theater. She will obtain her MD from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in May.
The Whiting Awards, established by the Whiting Foundation in 1985, remain one of the most esteemed prizes for emerging writers, based on the criteria of early-career achievement and the promise of superior literary work to come. A total of $8 million has been awarded to more than 300 fiction and nonfiction writers, poets and playwrights to date. Past winners include Michael R. Jackson, Will Arbery, Tony Kushner, Susan-Lori Parks, August Wilson, Sarah Ruhl and Lucas Hnath.
In addition to Cooper, Grays and Khoury, 2021 Whiting Award winners include poetry honorees Joshua Bennett, Marwa Helal, Ladan Osman and Xandria Phillips; fiction winners Steven Dunn and Tope Folarin; and nonfiction winner Sarah Stewart Johnson.